HOUSTON — To Clint Frazier, the night of July 1, 2017, at Minute Maid Park is as vivid now as it was then, and likely will be for a long time.
“This is where it all started,” Frazier said before Monday night’s game. “This is a special spot for me and my family. I’m really excited to be back here.”
Frazier, then 22, made his long-awaited big-league debut that night against the Astros, starting in rightfield and going 2-for-4 with a double and a homer. Not surprisingly, he recalls just about everything about the game.
“I remember my first at-bat [against Francis Martes]. I got a 3-0 count and I was feeling really good,” Frazier said. “The first pitch he threw for a strike, I took it, the second pitch he threw, I took it, and then the third pitch I struck out. I remember thinking, ‘Man, I am a little nervous.’ And that’s an uncommon feeling for me.”
But Frazier dispatched the feeling quickly. In his next at-bat against Martes, leading off the sixth, Frazier roped a double to left.
Then came the highlight.
Leading off the seventh against lefthander Tony Sipp, Frazier hammered a 1-and-2 pitch to left for his homer (the ball was retrieved by Yankees security and is in his mother’s possession).
“Any time you hit a home run, especially in your first game, is special],” Frazier said. “But I’m just glad I was able to put one ball in play for a hit that day.”
It was the start of a 16-game stretch in which Frazier hit .295 with a .908 OPS, three homers, six doubles and two triples.
Frazier was called up April 1 when Giancarlo Stanton went to the injured list with a left biceps strain. Frazier hopes his big weekend in Baltimore — a three-run homer Saturday and a four-hit day, with two homers, on Sunday — kick-starts a similar stretch. He was in the starting lineup again Monday, playing leftfield and batting eighth against Astros ace Justin Verlander in the Yankees' 4-3 loss.
His hot streak continued as he went 2-for-3 against Verlander, including a sixth-inning RBI single that gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead. In his next at-bat, Frazier lined hard to center against Ryan Pressly. At that point, he was batting .429 with three homers and nine RBIs.
“I’m a momentum guy,” Frazier said. “Once I get a little bit of momentum, I feel like I can just feed off of that. That’s what that game did for me. After that, I had a pretty good next two weeks, and that’s what I’m trying to get at right now with these last couple games. Just continue to feed off of the momentum.”
With Stanton and Aaron Hicks still considered a ways away from returning, Frazier appears ready to get regular playing time, something he hasn’t gotten since the summer of 2017. That season was short-circuited by an oblique injury that landed him on the disabled list from Aug. 9-Sept. 11. Things never came together last year, when the lingering effects of a spring training concussion sidelined him for much of the season.
“This is a guy that does a good job of controlling the strike zone,” Aaron Boone said Monday. “The talent is apparent: the bat speed, the power, the speed he brings to the table. So now it’s just about taking advantage of opportunity.
“It’s good to see him get some early results. The other day Saturday’s three-run homer], probably the biggest hit we’ve had all year to this point. For a young player who’s getting an opportunity, hopefully those are things that allow him to kind of settle in and get more and more comfortable at this level.”